Where to Snorkel in Ha’apai
For a true island escape, snorkelling just you and the fishes, Ha’apai is the Tongan island group to consider. The less-visited group provides decent snorkelling from the shore of many beach resorts, which gets better and better just a short boat ride away. The water temperatures are comfortable all year round, while the water visibility is often some of the best in the Kingdom, usually around 30 m (100 ft)! So check out some of the beaches and accommodations where it’s best to snorkel in Ha’apai from shore in the list below.
If you can’t make it to one of the snorkelling spots mentioned below, hop on one of the snorkelling tours by boat which takes you to the outer reefs. We have them listed in the The Best Snorkel & Scuba Dive Tours in Ha’apai.
7 Quick Tips for Snorkelling in Ha’apai
- Always snorkel with someone else
- Wear reef shoes and/or fins
- Don’t touch marine life
- Wear reef-safe sunscreen and/or wear a rash vest even on cloudy days
- Avoid snorkelling near the reef’s edges and passages; they have strong currents
- Assess the conditions; high swells and snorkelling don’t mix
- Respect the local culture; some snorkelling spots are near villages where wearing modest clothing (even when swimming) is important.
1. Matafonua Lagoon Reef, Foa Island
Houmale’eia Beach and Matafonua Lodge at the tip of Foa Island are just a 20 m (65 ft) swim away to one of the top snorkelling spots in Ha’apai. Expanding 400 m (1,312 ft), the Matafonua Lagoon Reef is a marine reserve harbouring an array of colourful corals and reef fish. The best snorkelling spot is marked by a buoy so finding the place is easy. Complimentary snorkelling gear is offered to guests of the resort. Otherwise, casual visitors are also free to enjoy this reserve.
Location: The northern end of the main road, Loto Foa Road, Foa Island.
2. Sea Change Eco Retreat, Uoleva Island
Uoleva Island has a good selection of snorkelling spots if you know where to go. Sea Change Eco Retreat will show you the best spots within walking distance of their resort if you’re staying with them. They also have complimentary high-quality snorkelling gear to hire if you don’t have your own, as well as kayaks to get to some harder-to-reach places. Alternatively, Sea Change also offers boat trips outside of the whale season to go snorkelling at some of the amazing outer reefs. Learn more about the resort in the 10 Best Resorts in Ha’apai and their snorkelling trip in the The Best Snorkel & Scuba Dive Tours in Ha’apai.
Location: Sea Change Eco Resort, northwest side of Uoleva Island.
3. Serenity Beaches Resort, Uoleva Island
There’s plenty to explore on both sides of Serenity Beaches Resort on Uoleva Island, the only resort on the island to have direct access to two beaches. The accommodation provides snorkelling gear, kayaks and SUP boards, along with a real Robinson Crusoe vibe in this quiet corner of Ha’apai. Enjoy snorkelling from the southern side of the resort at any tide and at mid and high tide on the northern side.
Location: Serenity Beaches Resort, southwest side of Uoleva Island.
4. Diana Beach Resort, Uoleva Island
Diana Beach Resort, also on Uoleva Island, provides more great snorkelling just off the beach at the eastern end of the accommodation (where the dark patches are). Stay in one of the basic but traditional fales here and enjoy snorkelling where it’s possible to spot all sorts of colourful fish and the occasional turtle. Bring your own gear if visiting during the whale season, as the snorkelling gear could well be on the resort’s whale-watching boat. The resort’s beach is also a good place to watch whales from shore.
Location: Diana Beach Resort, central north side of Uoleva Island.
5. Ha’apai Beach Resort, Lifuka Island
On the main island of the Ha’apai Group, Lifuka, you will find some good snorkelling opportunities at the Ha’apai Beach Resort. Not only does the resort provide snorkelling boat trips to some of the best nearby outer reefs, but the resort also has a house reef right on its doorstep (you’ll need to paddle to it, however, because, as you can see from the photo, the snorkelling is not good immediately outside of the resort). They also offer guided snorkelling boat trips outside of the whale season should you want to take your underwater exploration a step further. Snorkelling gear is available for guests.
Location: Signposted off Hala Holopeka Road, Niu a Kalo, halfway between Holopeka village and Pangai, on the west side of Lifuka Island.
6. Fanga ‘o Ipu Lahi Resort, Lifuka Island
Finally, those staying at Fanga ‘o Ipu Lahi Resort have access to some interesting snorkelling off the beach as long as the conditions are calm. This more exposed beach on the east side of Lifuka is closer to the reef than other spots we’ve mentioned on this list of the best places to snorkel in Ha’apai. Therefore, you’ll find that it’s best to snorkel at high tide to give you some distance between yourself and the coral below. Bring your own snorkelling gear, as there weren’t any available at the resort last time we checked.
Location: Signposted off Manusia Road, halfway between Holopeka village and Pangai, on the east side of Lifuka Island.
More Places to Snorkel in Ha’apai
That’s it for our list of the best places to snorkel in Ha’apai. For more snorkelling tips and water experiences, take a look at the following:
- The Best Snorkel & Scuba Dive Tours in Ha’apai
- 5 Best Whale Swim Tours in Ha’apai
- The Guide to Snorkelling in Tonga